International Studies Professor Rohan Kalyan Screens Documentary "Badiou" in Festival Circuit

April 25, 2019

The cast and crew of the documentary Badiou. From left to right: Norbert Shieh, Rohan Kalyan, an anonymous woman, Cecile Winter, Alain Badiou, and Gorav Kalyan.
The team behind "Badiou" with the philosopher/subject second from the right. 

French philosopher Alain Badiou was largely unknown in the United States outside leftist circles until several of his books, most notably “Being an Event”, were translated into English a few years ago. International Studies professor Rohan Kalyan, along with his brother Gorav, have helped increase awareness of Badiou through their recent documentary “Badiou” which has been making the festival circuit this year.

The Kalyan brothers were introduced to Badiou’s work after being asked to document his lecture series in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2014. As the Kalyans became “progressively more interested” in Badiou’s work, they decided to interview  him and create a documentary. Rather than employ the authoritative style typical of most documentaries, the Kalyans took a “conceptual and abstract” approach which “allows viewers to think alongside Badiou.”

After two years of editing, the documentary premiered at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival in Prague, followed by a screening at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival (aka CPH:DOX) where Rohan met artist Ai Weiwei. Rohan described the importance of question and answers sessions with audiences following the screening as well the value of “connecting with other filmmakers, especially those of color.”

International Studies professor Rohan Kalyan with Ai Weiwei.

Since filmmaking has traditionally been a white, male dominated field, there is a serious need for “voices from other backgrounds” whose “stories… are [often] different.” Rohan Kalyan noted the significance of how “Badiou” presents the story of a white philosopher as told and encountered by two men of color.

Once the Kalyans have arranged for a U.S. premiere of the documentary, they hope to screen it here at VCU. Rohan has just finished a screenplay which he hopes to turn into his first feature film.